Now there's a question I never thought I'd be asking in my early 40s. But this site and others on the interwebs have opened my mind. Today I did something I've been meaning to do for a while: called my company's HR department to find out how exactly the company's pension plan works and what I might expect when I retire. I was pretty floored by what a sweet deal it is, so I crunched some additional numbers and arrived at a rough 10-year plan for retirement.

I would appreciate any feedback, especially in the not unlikely event there are any faulty assumptions here or if there's anything big I forgot to consider. Sorry in advance for the long post.

I decided to sketch out a 10-year plan so I can retire with a nice 15 years of service with my company. I'll be a young 52. I will almost certainly continue to work in some capacity after that, but I'm not factoring in any post-retirement employment income in this plan. This plan assumes I will stay with my current employer but doesn't take future raises into account. It also doesn't factor in my single-family rental property, which I'll own outright in 19 years or sooner.

Current savings vehicles are as follows:

403(b) -- Current value 33k. Starting in 2013 I will max it out (current max 17k) every year for 10 years. Total projected value, assuming 7% annual growth: $318k

Roth IRA -- Will open and max it out (5k) this year and for next 10 years. Total value: $84k

Defined-contribution retirement plan -- Employer contributes 5% of annual salary. Current value $7k; 10 more years of contributions to come. Total value: $73k.

Total of these three vehicles in 2023: about $474k

I have the 403(b) and defined-contribution plan invested in Vanguard's moderate growth fund (60% stocks, 40% bonds). I'm not sure where I'll invest the Roth IRA yet--possibly a real estate investment trust? I gather that 7% annual growth is a reasonable figure to use for these kinds of projections but I could be wrong. I used a compounding calculator at moneychimp.com to get these totals.

Now the pension. These numbers are based on my current salary. According to what I heard from HR today, if I retire at 52 after 15 years of service, my monthly payment will be $2,139 if I start collecting at age 65. If I choose to start collecting at age 55, the monthly payment is slashed to $832. Better to wait the ten years! There are also lump-sum options available ($332k at age 65; $157k at age 55), but I imagine I'd want the monthly payments.

Finally, there's a certain government program to consider. If I retire at 52, my monthly social security payments based on the current estimator tool will be $1,115/month beginning at age 62. Yes, I am taking this number with a grain--no, a pillar--of salt.

What this all suggests to me is that when I turn 52 and retire, I can use a 4% or similar safe withdrawal rate to take earnings from the $474k I have amassed in my retirement accounts. (Still a little fuzzy on how exactly that works.) That plus part-time income should have me pretty well set up for a while at a lifestyle level resembling my current one. When I turn 62, social security will (theoretically) kick in, and when I turn 65, my $2,139/month pension will start paying. I realize my employer may change its payout formula in the next few decades, but clearly there will be something significant there for me.

Am I close to reality on this? I realize that stock market volatility could really eff up these plans. And among the many other variables that could change these numbers, a big one is the possibility of a future family. It's pretty easy to dream about this stuff when you're a single dude in an apartment. But overall I'm pretty confident I can reach and maybe exceed my savings goals for the next 10 years once I get some lingering debt out of the way.